Times Colonist

Animator has all the right moves


SAN ANTONIO — For the upcoming film Kung Fu Panda, animator Manuel Almela learned the martial arts moves of the animated characters he helped create two years ago.

“I needed to embed myself in kung fu.

“I needed to know the kung fu movements for the animation,” Almela said in a phone interview while promoting the film that opens tomorrow.

Featuring the voices of Dustin Hoffman, Jack Black, Angelina Jolie and Jackie Chan, Kung Fu Panda tells the story of a kung fu-loving panda named Po — played by Black — who works at his family’s noodle shop but longs to become a kung fu master.

Almela, an animator at DreamWorks Animation who has worked on Shark Tale and Monsters vs. Aliens, said creating the film’s fight scenes were the most challengin­g and the most fun.

“We let our imaginatio­ns run wild,” Almela said of the creative team of animators who had to draw animals using their tails the way a human would use an arm.

Animators also had to create an elaborate fighting sequence that took place on a narrow bridge.

Creating characters and giving them human-like mannerisms is a big reason Almela wanted to become an animator, he said.

Audiences caught up in the animated worlds of talking donkeys, monsters and other creatures are likely unaware of the extensive work that goes into creating such imaginary worlds.

“People don’t grasp it. It’s a really, really slow process,” said Almela.

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